Hardly any ecology faculty jobs are filled by internal candidates. And you can’t identify the ones that will be. (UPDATED)

If you’ve ever looked at the ecoevojobs.net faculty jobs board, you’ve probably seen speculation that position X has an internal candidate, the implication being that others maybe shouldn’t bother applying because the internal candidate will have an edge or even be a shoo-in. Sometimes, the speculation is not merely that a strong internal candidate exists, but that the position is intended for the internal candidate, so that the entire search is a formality with a pre-determined outcome.

But internal candidates have factors working against them as well as for them. As illustrated by the fact that they don’t always get the job–even when they’re confident they will! For instance, see here, here, and here. Those are anecdotes, though, so it’s hard to say if they’re typical. How often are internal candidates hired for ecology faculty positions? And is there any reliable way for outsiders to identify positions for which internal candidates will be hired?

According to the data I’ve compiled, the answers to those questions are “hardly ever” and “no”.

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Last and corresponding authorship in ecology: a series of blog posts turns into a paper

My paper on last and corresponding authorship appeared in the journal Ecology & Evolution today. Normally I don’t plug my papers on the blog, but this one is different: this paper arose out of a poll and a series of blog posts on the site, so it seems appropriate to wrap things up with a quick post today.

I suppose it’s actually not quite accurate to say the paper arose out of a poll. Before that, I had a tweet storm as I thought through issues, and that, in turn, was motivated by needing to decide on author order for a manuscript. When I was at Georgia Tech, I was told that I should be last author on all papers coming out of my lab as a sign of having driven the work. But I have a paper from work I did as a grad student where I am the last author (with my advisor as a middle author) because I did the least work on the project (Cáceres et al. 2008 Freshwater Biology), so the advice I got at Georgia Tech surprised me at first. At Georgia Tech, I was also told that I needed to be corresponding author on papers out of my lab; when I first got to Michigan, I never heard anyone mention corresponding authorship as something that mattered (and that included when I directly asked a couple of people about it). Notably, though, in the past year I did hear colleagues bring it up a couple of times.

I almost gave up on this paper multiple times, because I wasn’t sure it was worth the time. But I kept hearing comments from colleagues at various institutions about author order or corresponding authorship coming up as an issue, especially related to tenure & promotion discussions, so it seemed important to get this information out there in a format where it could easily be shared.

What did I find? This is the abstract of the paper:

Authorship is intended to convey information regarding credit and responsibility for manuscripts. However, while there is general agreement within ecology that the first author is the person who contributed the most to a particular project, there is less agreement regarding whether being last author is a position of significance and regarding what is indicated by someone being the corresponding author on a manuscript. Using an analysis of papers published in American Naturalist, Ecology, Evolution, and Oikos, I found that: 1) the number of authors on papers is increasing over time; 2) the proportion of first authors as corresponding author has increased over time, as has the proportion of last authors as corresponding author; 3) 84% of papers published in 2016 had the first author as corresponding author; and 4) geographic regions differed in the likelihood of having the first (or last) author as corresponding author. I also carried out an online survey to better understand views on last and corresponding authorship. This survey revealed that most ecologists view the last author as the “senior” author on a paper (that is, the person who runs the research group in which most of the work was carried out), and most ecologists view the corresponding author as the person taking full responsibility for a paper. However, there was substantial variation in views on authorship, especially corresponding authorship. Given these results, I suggest that discussions of authorship have as their starting point that the first author will be corresponding author and the senior author will be last author. I also suggest ways of deciding author order in cases where two senior authors contributed equally.

If you’re interested in finding out more, the paper is open access. Something that is fun is that this is the first paper to appear in Ecology & Evolution’s new paper category, Academic Practice in Ecology and Evolution. Also fun is that, after acceptance, the production staff required that I add an author contribution statement to my sole-authored paper. So, I wrote: {continues below the break}

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Ask Us Anything: journal clubs for groups with diverse interests, and the questions we want to study but haven’t yet

A while back we invited you to ask us anything. Here are our answers to our next two questions, from “lb”:

  1. How do you make a good journal club for people working on different topics, ranging from social insects to plants?
  2. What’s one question or idea you’ve always wanted to investigate but haven’t?

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Ask Us Anything: what if your advisor has conflicts with other senior people in your field?

A while back we invited you to ask us anything. Here are our answers to our next question, from an anonymous commenter: What do you do if your advisor has ongoing conflicts with other senior people in your field? Conflicts that you worry might limit your postdoctoral opportunities, and result in overly-negative reviews of papers co-authored with your advisor.

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Poll: How mathy are ecology, evolution, and genetics?

Something I’ve been interested in is student views on ecology, evolutionary biology, and genetics, including how much math they think is involved in the different disciplines. I’ve surveyed my Intro Bio students to get their views, and realized it would be interesting to compare it to what ecologists, evolutionary biologists, and geneticists think. Hence this poll! The poll is brief, but I’m doing it in google forms so I can do the cross tabs.

Here’s the link to the poll in case the embedding doesn’t work. The embedded poll is below the break.

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We’re looking for guest posts on non-academic careers for ecologists

Years ago we did a series of guest posts on non-academic* careers for ecologists, operationally defined as people with graduate degrees in ecology or an allied field. We want to revive it, and already have one guest post in the works, but we want more. Are you someone with a graduate degree in ecology who now works in something other than academic ecology, or do you know someone who fits that description? You (or whoever it is you know) should write a post for us about it!

It’s easy. Just email me (jefox@ucalgary.ca) the answers to the following questions:

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you, what sort of ecology did you do in grad school, and what do you do now? (aside: we can make you anonymous to readers, but I need to know who you are)
  2. How did you get into your current career?
  3. Tell us a bit about your current position and how you got it.
  4. Did you get advice (wanted or unwanted) from others about your non-academic career path? If so, what sort of advice did you get, and how did it affect you?
  5. In what ways do you find your career to be a change from academia? Are there aspects of the career that were a surprise or a “culture shock,” or that have required some adjustment on your part?
  6. In what ways (if any) has your academic background helped you in your career?
  7. Any regrets about not pursuing an academic career path?
  8. Anything else you want to say to readers considering your career, or a non-academic career path more generally?

You don’t have to write multi-paragraph answers. Just long enough to be useful to others. As an example of the sort of thing we’re looking for, see here and here.

We’re most interested in posts from people in careers other than those we’ve already covered (see list below). The career needn’t involve ecology.

For reference, here are our previous posts on non-academic careers:

Independent science consulting (aside: one of our very best posts ever)

Government scientist

Data scientist in Silicon Valley

Non-academic research scientist

Environmental consultant

Helping graduate students pursue non-academic careers: Anne Krook’s advice

Training graduate students for non-academic careers

*Note that I didn’t say “alternative” careers. A non-academic career is merely different in some ways from an academic one, not somehow inferior or second-best or whatever.

What currently widely-accepted scientific practices will someday be seen as unethical? (UPDATED)

Ethical norms change over time. What once was widely regarded as wrong can come to be regarded as acceptable, admirable, or even obligatory. And what was one widely regarded as acceptable, admirable, or even obligatory can come to be regarded as wrong. Norms can change so much that it becomes difficult to imagine how the old norms could ever have been seen as ok.

Hence my question: what currently widespread norms regarding the proper conduct or teaching of science will change dramatically in the next few decades?

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